Report: Institute of European Law Annual Lecture 2014

Posted on Friday 18th July 2014

Professor Patrick Birkinshaw with IEL Director Professor Martin Trybus

What have the Europeans done for us?

Each year the Institute of European Law invites an eminent European lawyer or academic to present its Annual Lecture on a European legal topic. Past speakers have included such distinguished visitors as Sir David Edward, Professor Alan Dashwood and Sir Konrad Schiermann, Gisela Stuart, Hon Mr Justice Elias, Judge Nicholas Forwood, Sir Christopher Bellamy and Professor Piet Eeckhout.

The 2014 Institute of European Law Annual Lecture was delivered by Professor Patrick Birkinshaw of the University of Hull on 26 June 2014 at Birmingham Law School.

Patrick has been a professor since 1990, and has lectured at Hull University since 1976. He is Director of the Institute of European Public Law, inaugurated by Sir Leon Brittan in 1992, and has been Editor in Chief of the quarterly journal European Public Law since 1995. He has written various books including: Freedom of Information: the Law, the Practice and the Ideal (4th ed 2010 Cambridge University Press), Government and Information: the Law Relating to Access, Disclosure and their Regulation (4th ed. with Dr Mike Varney 2011), European Public Law – The Achievement and the Challenge (2nd ed 2014) and Grievances Remedies and the State (2nd ed 1995).

Professor Birkinshaw worked as a specialist adviser to the Commons Public Administration Select Committee in its enquiry into 'Political Memoirs' in 2005/2006. He has acted as a government and parliamentary adviser and has represented the UK in numerous international legal seminars. From 1997 until 1999, he served as a specialist adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration in its review of Government proposals, and the Bill, on Freedom of Information. Between 2000 and 2008 he was a member of the transparency team for Nirex (subsequently part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) and acted as an ombudsmen on information requests.

Professor Birkinshaw is also on the Assessment Board for the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Science, which allocates public funds for academic research. Between 2003 and 2006 he was chair of the AHRC postgraduate committee for Law, Theology and Philosophy.

In this lecture "What have the Europeans done for us?", possibly inspired by Monty Python's Life of Brian ("what have the Romans ever done for us?"), Patrick Birkinshaw examined the impact that European Law (both European Community and Union law and the law of the European Convention on Human Rights) have had on English and United Kingdom law and the United Kingdom constitution.

The lecture was delivered at a time when a projected in/out referendum will take place on EU membership if the Conservative Party are returned to office in 2015 and when calls to leave the Council of Europe and to repatriate our human rights law are made by politicians and judges respectively. Thus the lecture addressed questions such as: How have our constitution and public law changed under European influence and what, if any, are the enduring legacies of these changes?

[Pictured: Professor Birkinshaw with IEL Director Professor Martin Trybus]